Do I have Bell’s Palsy?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 28, 2021

Over 40,000 people in the United States are affected by Bell’s Palsy every year.

Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes temporary facial muscular weakening or paralysis. When the nerve that controls your face muscles gets irritated, swollen, or compressed, it can cause facial paralysis.

While this condition is more common among people between the ages of 16 and 60, it can occur at any age.

Bell’s palsy causes one side of your face to droop or stiffen. On the affected side, you may find it difficult to smile or close one eye. Bell’s palsy is usually only temporary, with symptoms typically disappearing within a few weeks.

Do I have Bell’s Palsy?

Patients frequently report that their symptoms appeared ‘out of nowhere’ one to two weeks after they had a cold, an ear infection, or an eye infection, and that they first noticed the problem when they woke up or tried to eat or drink.

The tell-tale signs of Bell’s palsy is a droopy appearance on one side of the face, as well as the inability to open or close one eye.

The symptoms can be similar to those of other serious conditions, such as a brain tumor or stroke. In rare instances the palsy can affect both sides of the face.

Other signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy may include:

  • Difficulty eating and drinking
  • Drooling
  • Dry eye and mouth
  • Facial weakness
  • Headache
  • Inability to make facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning
  • Irritation of the eye on the involved side
  • Muscle twitches in the face
  • Sensitivity to sound

SEE RELATED: What is Bell’s Palsy

It is important to contact an eye doctor, if you develop any of these symptoms above, as these could also indicate a stroke or brain tumor. 

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What causes Bell’s palsy?

Bell’s palsy occurs when the seventh cranial nerve, also known as the facial muscles, becomes swollen or compressed, causing facial weakness or paralysis.

Although the exact source of the damage is unknown, many medical experts suspect it is caused by an infection.

The following viruses and bacteria have been connected to the development of Bell’s palsy:

  • Herpes simplex – causes genital herpes and cold sores
  • Herpes zoster virus – causes chickenpox and shingles
  • HIV – damages the immune system
  • Epstein-Barr virus – causes mononucleosis
  • Lyme disease – a bacterial infection caused by ticks
  • Sarcoidosis – causes organ inflammation

What are the risk factors?

The risks of developing Bell’s palsy increases with these conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Pregnant
  • Lung infection
  • Family history of the condition

What are the potential complications of Bell’s palsy?

The majority of people who suffer from Bell’s palsy recover entirely and without complications. More severe forms of Bell’s palsy, on the other hand, may result in problems.

The following are some complications:

  • Damage to the seventh cranial nerve, which controls your facial muscles.
  • Excessive dryness in the eye, which can lead to ulcers, eye infections or even blindness if not treated.
  • Synkinesis, a condition in which moving one body part causes another to move involuntarily, for example, when you smile, your eye may close.

How is Bell’s palsy treated?

Bell’s palsy symptoms can improve without treatment. The muscles in your face, on the other hand, may take several weeks or months to recover their normal strength.

There are medications and home treatments that may help in recovery.


  • Eye drops
  • Corticosteroid drugs, to reduce inflammation
  • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Antiviral or antibacterial medication

Home treatment

  • Facial massage
  • An eye patch for your affected eye
  • To relieve pain, place a warm, moist towel over your face
  • Physical therapy exercises to stimulate your facial muscles


Bell’s palsy patients usually have a positive outlook, as he length of time it takes to recover depends on the degree of the nerve damage.

However, within  two weeks of the onset of symptoms, most patients  notice a significant improvement. Most people recover completely  after three to six months, while those with more severe forms of Bell’s palsy may take longer.

In rare circumstances, symptoms may reappear or become permanent.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Eye Conditions

Contact your eye doctor, if you’re showing any signs of Bell’s palsy. 

Prompt treatment of Bell’s Palsy will speed up your recovery time and provide the best chance for a successful treatment.